The previous lighting revolution, which was fluorescent lighting, holds no comparison to, not only the energy savings but the boundless lighting applications which have accompanied the LED lighting revolution. Besides all the common LED lighting now available to the residential, commercial, and industrial fields, one of the most amazing changes comes with the development of LED lighting that is so intense that it is replacing high output gas-discharge lighting for large areas that fluorescent lighting – which is gas-discharge lighting, itself – could never have even been considered for. The fact that LED lighting is now able to illuminate parking lots, city streets, and even huge sports arenas is an amazing accomplishment that fluorescent lighting would never be able to achieve. Being familiar with the LED technology when it was only useable for small indicator lights, I just have to marvel at the advancements which have allowed these tiny solid-state electronic lights to illuminate an entire football stadium. Those LEDs used as indicator lights in electronics couldn’t have lit a football field if there were a million of them.
The task of lighting large areas has, in the past, been relegated to lights which are much less efficient than LED lighting in many respects. Besides being much less energy efficient, they require a warm-up period when turned on. Even if they have been in use and are warm, if there is even a brief power failure, there is still a warm up period that is necessary before they reach their rated output even if there is just a brief power loss. Lifetime ratings of LED arrays far exceed the older technologies, and when it comes time for any maintenance, which is many thousands of hours before LEDs would need it, the convenience factor in replacing the lights goes far beyond a step ladder’s assistance. Although, just as it is with all LED lighting, the initial cost is more than traditional forms of lighting, the potential savings in the use of LEDs in situations where maintenance requires scaffolding, lift buckets, and even crane setups is heavily offset with fewer maintenance instances.
The quality of lighting now possible with LEDs for use in large areas is better than any previous technology in many terms. In the largest areas, professional sports arenas, which can ill afford to NOT take advantage of the LED technology as soon as possible, the benefits are multifold. Besides the previous mention of lower energy and maintenance costs, there are benefits to the players, the fans, the neighbors, and the environment. The players and fans both benefit from being able to see the action in an environment that can more closely match the aspects of daylight. The neighbors benefit from less glow in the area and the night sky benefits as well because the LED light is much more directional than any other form of lighting and the uniform directionality of the lights keeps the illumination focused on the playing field instead of also filtering into the surrounding areas. The LED lighting is also beneficial in the directional aspect as there is no light loss due to reflectors necessary for conventional lighting. In that respect, it is quite possible to require much less area to accommodate the number of LED units necessary to create the needed amount of illumination. Of course, the same benefits apply to smaller venues as well, and many indoor arenas are converting to the LED technology and the difference in lighting appearance and power consumption is quite notable.
Street lights, highway illumination, parking lots, parks, and other outdoor areas which have been illuminated in the past with some sort of gas-discharge light, which have been the backbone of large area lighting for decades, are now starting to benefit from LED technology. The LED light packs available for the task of illuminating these large areas are not only efficient in energy consumption but in regard to physical size and the design possibilities. These aspects can be attributed directly to one of the characteristics of the LEDs themselves; they are very small for the amount of light they can produce. When compared to the necessary size of previous technology to produce a specific amount of light, LED technology allows for, potentially, smaller enclosures and a potential cost savings in production. Since LEDs need no reflector and do not lose light in unwanted directions, there is also potential cost savings in eliminating the need for reflectors to direct the light. The necessity of some sort of heat dissipation device for LEDs does add to both the size and production cost but, still, outside of the LED cost themselves, material production cost of the fixtures can be lower than previous lighting.
The large area lighting is not necessarily a commercial or industrial undertaking, as even large area and outdoor residential lighting is a task that has been greatly improved with LED technology. The spotlights and floodlights that are now available in LED form are so much more efficient and adaptable than previous residential area lighting. The area lighting which might be used in residential applications as security, convenience, or safety measures, features all the benefits previously discussed with the other large area LED lighting.
An important bottom line to be noted with all LED technology is the impact it can and will have on the carbon footprint that is now associated with the use and disposal of all previous lighting technology. In the U.S. the incandescent lights will no longer be available for sale by the year 2020, so in the next few years we all are going to have to make the switch to LEDs. As always, if you need help with your LED lighting projects, please feel free to call Polar Ray at 303-494-5773 and speak with a lighting consultant.